D.C. landlords are required to fix garbage disposals.
If and whenever “an owner or licensee of any residential building furnishes any facilities for cooking, storage, or refrigeration of food, those facilities shall be maintained by the owner or licensee in a safe and good working condition.” D.C. Municipal Regulations 400.6 and 600.4.
This means that landlords are not required to provide a garbage or trash disposal, but if it breaks, they must fix it. However, that doesn’t apply when the tenant causes it. If a tenant damages the garbage disposal by trying to dispose of inappropriate items, then the tenant will be responsible for costs. The easiest way to handle the dispute to for a landlord to hire someone to fix it. The repairman should be able to tell if misuse caused the problem, and if so, the landlord may send a bill to the tenant. 802
The above housing code requirements override anything written in the lease. Therefore, a lease provision stating the landlord is not responsible for fixing garbage disposals will not absolve them of a housing code violation. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-301.1.
Report the Problem
If a tenant thinks the landlord is violating D.C. Housing Code (or another D.C. law) and it’s worth causing a fight with the landlord, the best option for them is to report it to local authorities. Tenants can call (202) 442-9557 or email email@example.com. Tenants should call 311 for urgent problems. Tenants should document all issues and keep a copy of all communication where they first notified the landlord. The RenterPeace app makes this easy.
Although this may negatively impact the landlord-tenant relationship, tenants have broad protections under the law as long as they have a “good faith” belief that there is a violation. A landlord cannot increase the rent, decrease the services to the tenant (e.g., cut off utilities), or evict them in retaliation for making a complaint. Tenants often fear that a landlord may try to kick them out regardless, but to evict a tenant, landlords must first take them to landlord-tenant court, where the landlord will be made to answer 1) for all the problems stated in the complaint and 2) for whether they illegally retaliated against the tenant. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-307.
What To Expect
When a tenant reports a problem, an inspector visits the apartment (typically within a week or less) to look for housing code violations. The inspector then typically orders the landlord to fix the problem(s) by a certain date and sometimes immediately fines them for the violation. Fines can be as high as $300 per day the apartment is in violation, but typically, the inspector simply wants to see the problem fixed. If the landlord ignores the order to fix the problem, they may be subject to more fines and may even be subject to up to 90 days in jail per day that the apartment violates housing rules. D.C. Municipal Regulations 14-102.1 and 14-102.7.